Edinburgh Fringe 2015
“Plan B for Utopia is a playful dance theatre work by Dundee-based company Joan Clevillé Dance. Charismatic performers Solène Weinachter and John Kendall explore the notion of utopia and the role that imagination can play as a driving force for change in our personal and collective lives.”
As we enter the theatre, two performers (Solène Weinachter and John Kendall) play with building blocks on top of a cardboard box. They are constructing a city, or a world – a utopia. As their attempts become more creative and elaborate the blocks fall and they are left to start again. Slowly audience members are invited to contribute to this venture and congratulated as they balance blocks on the precarious structure. It is a nice motif that illustrates the themes of the performance and introduces the playful way in which they are explored. The sequence slowly comes to an end and the performers approach a microphone.
‘Why is it easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine it changing for the better?’
‘I don’t know’.
Grand questions are met with difficult, yet entirely realistic responses before the duo launch into an intense sequence of movement which encapsulates the harsh reality of this dilemma and our inability to provide satisfactory answers. Whilst my knowledge of dance is somewhat limited; the choreography is brilliant. The dancers tread a fine line that, as with most performance, only the most skilled can occupy. The movement is full of explosive energy, it feels scrappy, uncertain yet deliberate and highly controlled. As such, their interaction feels open and full of possibility, much like the questions they begin to explore.
The performance moves between dance and movement (difficult to distinguish I know!) to improvised interactions and snippets of text delivered via microphone. The overall performance is constructed around these separate sequences, all of which add to the dynamic nature of the work. Text is often used to help shape the themes around which the various scenes have been developed. There is something to be said for the didactic way in which some of the ideas are introduced. Personally, I feel that much of the meaning is evident within the movement of the piece and the text could have been used to obscure some of these ideas in order to enable the audience to establish their own responses to the work. However, a complexity of responses to the questions raised is slowly layered throughout, and moments of dialogue are expertly woven into the performance and do not disrupt the physical dimensions of the work.
Various objects are also used to add to the performance. These are introduced by the performers and the aesthetic is very hands on, nothing feels superfluous or overdone. A mirror ball, positioned on the centre of the stage seems like a cheap gimmick, but then, creates a brilliant change in lighting that quickly shifts the tone. Similarly, a tape player, used to play music creates an eery atmosphere as the music stops and we are left to listen to the crackle of silence as the tape continues to play.
It is arguable that some the transitions are quite slow. The movement between scenes could be sped up as the energy within them is very compelling but a lot of this is lost as they work to introduce a new idea. For me, it became apparent that the work is a series of devised sequences that have been stitched together. This is, of course, how most performances are developed. However, skill lies in obscuring the thread which brings these different elements together and I feel that there is still some space to develop and elevate this brilliant piece of work even further.
This is a brilliant piece of dance/physical theatre. I highly recommend it.